Getting Through a Group Interview

Hamsa Ramesha | SalesHQ

Group interviews are relatively easy if you work well in a team and are able to make your ideas heard in a crowd. However, they can be challenging if you have a quieter personality and prefer to keep to yourself.

Regardless of how you feel about group interviews, there’s no reason you should treat them any different, in most respects, than a standard, one-on-one interview. The same basic principles apply: Research the company, arrive on time, dress appropriately, practice answering common interview questions, and remember to follow up after the interview.

What’s the Difference?

The key difference between individual interviews and group interviews is obvious: You’ll be questioned along with a bunch of other hopeful job seekers. Your objective isn’t just to show what a great employee you could be — you need to beat the competition face-to-face, too. The competition is in the room with you. Don’t worry — you can use this to your advantage.

The challenge is to find the right balance between getting your opinion across and dominating the conversation. You don’t want to be so close-mouthed that you’re perceived as being passive or shy either. Be confident and don’t let yourself be bullied by others into staying quiet. At the same time, encourage your fellow interviewees to speak up and let their ideas be heard. You’ve got nothing to worry about, right? Let your knowledge and confidence speak for themselves. Keep yourself focused and calm and you’ll blow away the competition.

Panel Interview vs. Project Interview

Group interviews can be conducted a few ways, depending on the quirks of the company. In a panel interview, a group of job seekers are asked several questions by a panel of people from the company. These people are usually from a variety of backgrounds, and can include someone from human resources, company executives, and/or employees you are most likely to work with should you get the job. The point of panel interviews is to make your voice heard without dominating the conversation. Are your responses memorable? Are you memorable? Be respectful, respond intelligently, and keep your cool to ace this kind of interview.

Project interviews are more hands-on. In these situations, a team of job seekers is given a group assignment which measures a variety of skills including teamwork, leadership, communication, interpersonal relationships, and project management. The interviewers want to see how well you work with each other and observe you in action — something that can’t be done in a passive, one-on-one interview. These types of interviews are difficult to prepare for, unless you’ve been told ahead of time what the assignment will be so that you can study up. In any case, turn the interview in your favor by showcasing your leadership ability. Don’t just take charge and manage the whole group — make sure everyone is heard and keep the peace!

What to Expect in a Group Interview

The challenge of any interview is to figure out specifically which kind of employee the company is looking to hire. You should have an idea of the skills the position requires, based on the job description and preliminary conversations with the company. Are you applying for a leadership position? Or will you be part of a team? If you know what skills the position requires of you, focus on emphasizing those traits in the group interview.

Follow Up After

Following up after the interview is especially important for group interviews. You want to do everything you can to set yourself apart from the crowd! Don’t forget to send a thank you note to every single person who interviewed you, so make sure you’ve got the right names and contact information of everyone you interviewed with. In the note, it might be a good idea to remind them of something specific you said that was memorable or impressive, so they can tie a face to your name.

Take it Easy

Still worried about the group interview? Don’t be — it sounds more daunting than it is! Just treat it with the same sense of precaution and preparedness you would with a one-on-one interview. Employers are still looking for the most qualified candidates who best fit their company. If you do your research, come prepared, look professional, and answer the questions well, you’ve done all you can. If you don’t get the position, ask for feedback. Find out where you could have improved and learn from your mistakes. At the very least, the employer will be impressed with your request, and they may just keep you in mind for the next position that opens up!